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computer laboratory facade

ComputerScience@Corpus: Courses and Admissions

Corpus welcomes students for the Undergraduate Degree (the so-called CST Tripos) including those who also want to read part III of the course in a fourth year. We also welcome postgraduate candidates for the Masters and PhD in Computer Science.

Undergraduate Admission

Ishaan at work       Ishaan read Computer Science at Corpus and this photo of him demonstrating his second-year group project features on the department's CS3 web site.

Course Film.

Computer Science Tripos: As explained in the general Admissions Prospectus, The course covers all aspects of modern computer science, ranging from programming languages and theory to hardware, data science, and artificial intelligence. Computer Science undergraduates devote nearly their whole time to reading Computing. The exception is that 25 percent of the first year is spent reading Maths For Natural Scientists. Even then, they take different scientific computing practicals from the NST students. There are no options to select at application time: specialisation occurs progressively throughout the course.

Note: the older 50 percent Computer Science Options are stopping and you will soon no longer be able to apply.

Certain other courses at Cambridge, notably Natural Sciences, allow you to read Paper 1 of the Computer Science Tripos in their first year, but there will be restricted numbers allowed to take this option in the future owing to pressure for places at the Computer Laboratory.

Entry Requirements

The usual conditional offer given by Corpus is A*A*A at A Level, with one of the subjects required to be Mathematics and with Further Mathematics also highly favoured. Similar offers are also made on the basis of appropriate qualifications such as Scottish Advanced Highers or the International Baccalaureate.

Selection is based on a range of academic criteria including your achieved and predicted examination results and interview performance.

All Computer Science applicants sit a challenging written test when they come for interview. This is managed by a large consortium of Colleges: CSAT Admissions Test.

There will normally be two interviews, both subject-specific. Interview candidates will be asked to work through three or four brief exercises designed to reveal deep understanding of relevant A-level subject material. An ability to apply mathematical knowledge and skills to unfamiliar problems is very important. The field of decision/discrete mathematics is especially relevant. Candidates who have done or are doing Physics A-level may well be asked about a recent practical experiment so that we can assess what they have learned from it.

Additionally, after being offered a place, but before you arrive, you must do the online Computer Science pre-arrival course and a Maths Work Book. The prev-arrival course is here PrepCS.

You may wish to take Computer Science as a four-year course, by staying on to read Part III of the Computer Science Tripos. You do not need to indicate this to the College or University at application time. Instead it depends on your plans at the end of your third year and on scoring sufficiently well in your third-year exams. But if you think this is a possiblity, then it is a very good idea to describe the course as four-year's duration to those who are supplying or helping with your undergraduate funding at the outset.

A year off? Deferred entry is welcomed, particularly if the focus is on relevant work experience. An ideal placement would involve software development at a technology company, or a research project at a lab or university. However, although such a placement can be valuable, prior professional programming experience is not a prerequisite for studying Computer Science. Extending a summer studentship to the whole year can be extremely worthwhile and some companies will go to on to offer sponsorships to gap students. Working in a computing or electronics shop or IT department of a non-technical company is unlikely to be a particularly useful preparation for the course.

Example Interview Questions


With so many people achieving high marks in their examinations, the interview remains an important part of the applications procedure. Interview questions seek to not only discover whether a candidate is completely fluent with mathematics and related subjects, but also to explore whether they deeply understand the material and so are agile when directing their knowledge in fresh directions.

Interviews generally involve the candidate sketching diagrams or equations with pen and paper as the interviewers watch and encourage. The interview consists of a combination of maths questions and more subject-specific questions (which also tend to be heavily mathematical).

When you are ready, please click on the '♣A' links to see a brief note regarding the style of expected answer.

Maths Questions

Typical maths questions for Computer Science:

  1. When we hit a metallic object it can make a sound that is essentially a decaying harmonic motion. What is the basic formula for the position of part of the object with respect to time? Can this be expressed as the real part of a less complex expression? ♣A

  2. If we are trying to find out the height of an unseen person and allowed only questions whose answer is yes or no, what accuracy might we expect to achieve in determining their height after five questions? ♣A

  3. With a rectangular table of binary digits it is always possible to add an extra row and an extra column so that every row and every column of the resulting table has an even number of ones and zeros in it. Explain why. Is it always possible to add a row and column to a table binary digits where every row and every column of the resultant table has an odd number of binary digits? ♣A

Subject-Specific Questions

Besides maths exercises, the following more subject-specific questions are typical of what might be discussed during the undergraduate admissions interview:

  1. Long division and long multiplication are methods of doing arithmetic. What are their essential common properties as captured by the word 'long' and as compared with any other method for multiplication or division ? ♣A

  2. A block diagram for a domestic television set from the 1950's would contain a display unit, an audio amplifier and a tuner. Since then, many additions have been made to television architecture, such as the inclusion of colour, stereo sound, infra-red remote control, video input sockets and teletext. Can you sketch the original block diagram and then show how the block diagram has evolved as one or two of these extra facilities are incorporated? ♣A

  3. The British Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) entered all of its driver and vehicle license information into a large computer centre in Swansea UK in 1974. Estimate how much information needed to be entered? Can a modern smartphone host a database of that size? Why does the DVLA still need a thirteen-story building if computers have become so much smaller? ♣A

  4. The London 2012 Olympic stadium incorporates a distributed visual display composed of approximately one LED per stadium seat. Estimate what resolution image would spectators looking from one side to the other experience? The LEDs were actually arranged in small panels spaced every few seats. Describe how you would envisage the system architecture, consisting of the individual display panels, a central controller and any other components needed. ♣A

  5. The NASA moon landings were possible owing to computer simulations of the flight trajectories. These simulations were basically numerical solutions of differential equations that could not be solved by hand. Give an example of a simple differential equation and explain how it behaves or how you might write a program that models its behaviour. ♣A

We do not necessarily expect any programming experience from candidates: just a strong interest in computers in general. Candidates will only be asked to sketch out code fragments if they have previously studied programming.

All questions copyright DJ Greaves, Corpus Christi College, 2012.

Postgraduate Courses

Master of Philosophy in Advanced Computer Science: Corpus welcomes students for the M Phil in Advanced Computer Science which is a one-year masters course run by the department.

Doctor of Computer Science: Corpus welcomes postgraduate computer scientists who wish to take a PhD degree. Applicants should read the departmental web pages in order to find a programme or topic of research that they would like to follow and then apply via the Board of Graduate Studies.

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